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Frost changes canola harvesting plans

Swath canola hit by heavy frost. Canola that was still fairly green when heavy frost hit over the past week will desiccate quickly. Pods can start dropping or shattering within days. Pods dry out prematurely, then shatter or break off at the pedicel.

In areas hit by successive heavy frosts, growers planning to straight combine should reconsider that decision unless the crop had dried down naturally prior to the frost.

If pods were already leathery, the frost may have little effect on shattering risk. But frost damage to green crop will leave those pods in jeopardy of both shattering and pod drop. Waiting to straight cut green crop hit by heavy frost may mean considerable losses.

Green crop hit by heavy frost should be swathed, and probably right away. Immature, watery seed will see little if any advantage from waiting. With frost damage, this seed probably won’t finish filling even if the crop is left standing.

For seed near maturity, frost has locked in chlorophyll and it likely won’t clear. Look for seeds that are brown on the outside but dark green inside. Mature seed is ready. 

The exception is southern Alberta and parts of eastern Saskatchewan, which had a late start to the year and a lot of canola seeded in June. 

Late-seeded fields have only been in the ground three months. The crop is still green but is actually progressing at a normal pace. Don’t be in a rush to swath this canola, especially if you haven’t had a killing frost of below minus 2 C.

If you get a couple weeks of warmer weather without a heavy frost, this canola could mature nicely. Swathing now would cut off this potential. It may be better to hold off and watch the weather forecast.

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